How many times have we experienced God, and with the passing of time forgotten it?
Phrased a different way, how many times have we fallen to the same doubt/fear/weakness, even though we witnessed God working in powerful ways in that area previously?
We humans have horrible memories. Sometimes it’s with short term; I’ll learn someone’s name and minutes later draw a blank. Sometimes it’s with long term; I can barely remember my childhood. Sometimes it’s with accuracy; police have often interviewed several eye-witnesses, only to find most of them differing on even major points (“The car was blue”, “No, it was orange!”.)
Overall, we are bad at remembering. And this is a problem, because it allows us to live in the same lies and cycles that keep us from truly experiencing and growing in God.
Last week, I closed out a great service week with the PA crew and OK boys by looking at Joshua 4, 1 Samuel 7.
In Joshua 4, as the Israelites are crossing the Jordan, God asks them to build a memorial. Joshua sends 12 men, a representative of each tribe, back to the middle of the temporarily dry river bed to grab a stone each, in order to “6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
In 1 Samuel 7, the people of Israel, presently ruled by the Philistines, mourned the neglect of their relationship with God, and sought after Him. Samuel tasked them with getting rid of their idols, that God may deliver them. The Philistines, hearing the Israelites were gathering, decided to attack them. Samuel cried out to God, and He delivered them with thunder. “12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[b]saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.””
In both cases, God is experienced in a real, powerful way. Why was that not enough, that He would ask them to set up stones in remembrance?
I think we need only to read a bit further to see how quickly and easily they forget God. Similarly, after experiencing something powerful, I think we see the same trend in our lives.
God knows the futility of our memory, so He tells us to make something tangible, so that we can regularly see and be reminded. So what does that look like for us? What does that look like for the summer interns?
Maybe it’s a necklace you wear. Maybe it’s a journal you keep and regularly reread. Maybe, like a close friend of mine, it’s a tattoo on your hand. You know what will catch your eye and spark your memory.
So why didn’t it work for the Israelites? The same reason the many journals I’ve written don’t often remind me of God’s work in my life; because they sit on a shelf and gather dust. It is incredibly important to set up “stones of remembrance” or to find an “ebenezer”, but it is more important that we take them seriously. It is more important that we return to them.
Jesus wanted the disciples to remember who He was and why He came, but He didn’t just tell them to remember; He used bread and wine to represent Him, so that any time they ate and drank of them, they would remember.
We must remember God’s activity in our lives, lest we continue in thinking they are “our” lives.
We must recognize that God is always active, and debrief after every experience; “Where was God in this?”
What’s great is this is not only for our own spiritual growth; remember in Joshua:
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ …”
Our lives our not about us alone, but God uses our lives as salt and lives to future generations.
So, when a day comes, where a child asks us about a “God moment” in our lives, will we remember?
Read more at www.wheredidyouseeGod.com/writings